College Prep Activities High School Students Should Do Over the Summer

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Find the College Right for You! »

Like most high school students, I always looked forward to my summer vacations. They were times for me to relax, recharge, and focus on myself. As you prepare for these months of respite, keep in mind there is a big difference between relaxing and doing nothing. Although sleeping in and binge-watching movies is a foolproof recipe for a relaxed summer, you might want to consider adding another task to your itinerary: strengthening your college applications.

You might be wondering why any of your well-earned summer vacation should be devoted to college applications, but it won’t be as tedious as you imagine. The summer allows for more freedom to explore new activities and opportunities that could strengthen your activities resume and make your application stand out. College admissions officers are looking for students who have well-rounded, diverse experiences. As a student, you bring more than just your intellect to campus; you bring the experiences that make you unique.

Although filling your summer with college prep activities may sound boring, it doesn’t have to be! There are so many ways to spend your summer while also improving your college applications. To help you find the perfect college prep activities for your summer, start off by asking yourself the following questions:

What Career/Major are You Interested In?

If you have a specific major or career path in mind, it’s a good idea to find activities that relate to that field. The more relevant experience you have, the better chance you have of getting accepted into your desired program. If you know you’re going to create the next best start-up company, participating in a summer workshop for young entrepreneurs will demonstrate your interest to the business school at your future college.  

What Are You Passionate About?

Mixing your passions with your summer activities can motivate you to work hard and have fun. You are more likely to excel in an activity when you love what you’re doing. If you’re passionate about social justice, for instance, attending a rally for a cause you care about will demonstrate your commitment to your values and passions.

How Much Time Do You Want to Dedicate?

You can easily narrow down your choices when you have a clear idea of how much time you want to commit to your activities. Some activities have different time requirements ranging from a single day to the entire summer, so plan wisely to avoid getting overwhelmed. While it is important to be productive during summer, you should still give yourself time to rest and relax—you’ve definitely earned it.

After answering these questions, you are ready to look through our top college prep activities and decide which are best for you.

Take a Summer Class

You probably want to spend as much time away from the books as possible, but summer classes can be very beneficial. Taking summer classes will show colleges that you are dedicated to your education. Most high school students take who do this enroll in college courses or pre-college programs. Find out if your high school offers college-level courses you can take over the summer or enroll at your local community college. Summer classes can help you knock out college credits that you will need in the future, impress admissions officers, and take pressure off your college schedule. Before you enroll, check to make sure that your courses will properly transfer to credits at your future university.

Juniors and seniors can also attend pre-college programs. Find out if the colleges on your preference list provide these programs and choose the one that aligns with your interests and makes you excited to learn.

Cal State Fullterton’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) introduces junior high and high school students from underserved communities to higher education. Ramadhan Ahmed, a recent Cal State Fullerton graduate who was accepted to 17 elite medical schools, remembers participating in GEAR UP in junior high and working with CSUF mentors to apply for college. “Ever since I was in seventh grade, Cal State Fullerton has been an instrumental part of my life,” he said. “When it was time to choose a college, the choice was clear. I believed that the people at Cal State Fullerton would provide a nurturing environment that would help me succeed academically and professionally.”

Study for Your SAT/ACT Exam

If summer classes seem like they may take up too much of your time, you can also use the summer to prepare for your SAT and ACT exams. Many students choose to study for their exams during the summer because they have fewer distractions and more time to study.

For more advice and tips that will help you conquer the SAT/ACT exam, check out our Test Prep Page!

Find a Job

Whether it’s a part-time job, internship, job-shadowing, working at a camp, or starting your own small business, your job experience will show admissions officers that you have a strong work ethic and management skills.

If you choose the employment route, make sure to choose a job that can help you develop skills suitable for your career interests.

Working at a summer camp, for example, can be a great way to work on your management and leadership skills, which can be useful in any profession! Some of the most common types of camps include YMCA camps, academic camps, religiously affiliated camps, and sports camps. When I was in high school, I worked at a camp to teach elementary and middle school students how to play tennis. Not only was it fun to work alongside fellow tennis players, but I improved my teamwork and communication skills as well.

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You could even start your own business—don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that you need to create an extravagant, multimillion dollar company. Something as small as a tutoring, babysitting, or dog-walking business can make a big impact. Admissions officers will be able to see your motivation to tackle leadership roles.


There are a wide range of volunteer opportunities to choose from. Whether its tutoring, working at your local animal shelter, or visiting hospitals, choose one that you can dedicate your summer to. Sticking to one activity all summer instead of a handful of short-term events can demonstrate your dedication and commitment.


Create an unforgettable summer experience by participating in college prep activities that expand beyond your local community. If you already have travel plans, consider adding some activities that will benefit your academic career and college applications.

College visits to the schools that you’re interested in are a fun and exciting way to meet students and faculty. Summer gives you more time to make these long-distance trips, and you can get a better idea of the student life that awaits.

You can also take your college prep activity experiences outside of the country with study abroad, service, or skill-training opportunities. If you have the privilege to participate, you can get a life-changing perspective as you explore different cultures while expanding your academic knowledge and skills. Travel opportunities don’t have to be expensive either; there are many travel programs that offer scholarships.

Do an Extracurricular

If you have a talent or hobby that you’re passionate about, you can use the summer to strengthen your skills or develop new ones. I spent my high school summers training in jiu-jitsu, learning to play the guitar, and improving my dance skills. If you have always wanted to learn a certain skill, the summer is definitely a great time to start.

Whether you choose one or a few, make sure you choose activities that meet your interests and won’t overwhelm you. By adding these to your résumé, you can impress admissions officers with your experience and dedication!

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